New Delhi, Sep 27 (EFE).- Thousands of Indian farmers staged demonstrations across the country Monday against new agricultural reforms, a year after the government approved the controversial liberalization measures.
Protesters blocked main highways in response to the call given by the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), an umbrella organization that brings together dozens of agricultural unions.
The day marked the 10th month of unending protests in the country against the new laws they say threaten their livelihoods, triggering fears of contract farming and exploitation by private business houses.
“There has been an unprecedented countrywide response to the strike call given by the SKM (Samyukt Kisan Morcha),” farm leader Rakesh Tikait tweeted.
Tikait, who has been at the forefront of the anti-government protests against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pro-market agricultural reforms, apologized “for the inconveniences caused to the citizens” due to the pan-India strike.
“Farmers have also been suffering all the problems for the last 10 months,” he said.
The umbrella organization said, in a statement, that there was a “complete shutdown” in the states of Punjab, Haryana, Bihar, and Kerala.
The strike call received a “broad support” in a dozen other regions, it said.
The Kisan Ekta Morcha, a group of farmers, posted on social media images of the “unprecedented response” to the strike that began at dawn and ended at 4 pm. with markets closed in several parts of the country.
Avik Saha, secretary of the All India Kisan Sangharsh (struggle) Coordination Committee, one of the organizers, told EFE that people held protest demonstrations at “tens of thousands of places.”
“The pent up anger and animosity that the people feel towards the central government was clear today. Almost every section of the Indian society is suffering in one way or the other under this government (due to) rising prices, joblessness, food crisis,” Saha said.
Demonstrations also took place at permanent encampments installed on the borders of the national capital, the hub of resistance against the new agricultural laws.
Farmers have been permanently staying at these encampments with their tractors for the past ten months.
They began their protests last November against three laws that allegedly leave farmers at the mercy of the free market without protection guarantees from the government.
The new laws also permit and facilitate contract farming and allow private markets to function outside the physical boundaries of the government-regulated wholesale farm markets.
Peasants fear that the Modi government policy would corporatize Indian agriculture and end state control over farm markets.
The protesters have threatened to carry on till the government revokes the reform measures.
They have set up roadside community kitchens to serve food to the participants.
The government has defended the laws, saying they would remove middlemen interference and help farmers access a broader market with competitive pricing.
The government opened talks with protesting farmers early this year, claiming that it would amend the laws.